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The Siena School Blog

Discover, Learn, Celebrate, and Empower

Welcome to Siena's blog, your source for helpful, cutting-edge resources tailored to teachers, parents, and other advocates in the learning differences community. We are dedicated to providing a wealth of curated knowledge spanning various topics, ranging from dyslexia advocacy and awareness to classroom teaching strategies, heritage month profiles, and social and emotional health.


Posts Tagged "women's~history~month"

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Sally Gardner and Laurie Halse Anderson

February 27, 2024
By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator

“Women from every background have long realized that an uneven playing field will never bring equality or justice. Many feel the critical need to speak up and work harder for fairness in our institutions and social interactions.” —National Women’s History Alliance


Women Writers with Dyslexia  

The theme of Women’s History Month 2024 is Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Siena celebrates Sally Gardner and Laurie Halse Anderson, two writers with dyslexia whose years of work in the arts have helped tell inclusive stories about diverse topics and characters.

As the National Women’s History Alliance reminds us,

During 2024, we recognize the example of women who are committed to embracing everyone and excluding no one in our common quest for freedom and opportunity. They know that people change with the help of families, teachers, and friends and that young people in particular need to learn the value of hearing from different voices with different points of view as they grow up.

Sally Gardner 

Diagnosed with a learning difference at age 11, Gardner worked for many years in theatre set design and visual arts in her native England. She then pivoted to writing in her mid-40s. Her first book was The Strongest Girl in the World (1999), and her most recent is The Weather Woman (2023). Other notable Gardner books include I, Coriander, The Door That Led to Where, The Double Shadow, and Tinder. Her books include diverse character types and frequently overlap imaginative stories and historical or fairy tale settings.


See Sally Gardner’s website for a full list of her books for young readers. She’s also a participating artist with artist and dyslexia advocate Gil Gershoni’s Dyslexic Dictionary project.

Disobedience is a part of being dyslexic. A refusal to be classified, to adhere to rules without answers. A defiance against mediocrity. To disobey is to believe in the power of imagination to alter situations. To leave those behind who tell you things must be done the same as they were always done. —Sally Gardner

Laurie Halse Anderson


Diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, Anderson received early intervention for reading and speech learning differences in school. To learn more about her background, see this series of short videos about her life and work from Reading Rockets, where Anderson discusses her schooling and use of haiku as her entry point into writing.

Anderson has written many picture books and young adult novels on a variety of historical and contemporary subjects, including censorship, sexual assault, and eating disorders. Her first book was Ndito Runs (1996), and her newest is Rebellion 1776 (forthcoming, October 2024). Other notable Anderson books include Chains, Shout, Speak (adapted into a movie in 2004), and The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School.

See Laurie Halse Anderson's website for a full list of her young adult, historical fiction, and picture books, as well as a list of her many awards and honors. There are also educators’ guides and discussion questions for selected books.

I write about the things that teenagers have to deal with every day. Many of them have to cope with hard things, sadly. When they read books about similar experiences, they feel less alone. Those kids who are lucky enough to have wonderful, trauma-free lives can learn what it’s like to not be so lucky from my books. That helps them develop empathy and compassion.  —Laurie Halse Anderson

Resources and Events for Women’s History Month

Here are some resources and local events commemorating Women’s History Month 2024:

Siena Resources 

The Siena School blog has other Heritage Month spotlights related to innovative dyslexia education, including WNBA stars A’Ja Wilson and Jewell Loyd and Olympian Meryl Davis for past Women’s History Month posts.

See also our blog posts on Native American book recommendations, Mexican writer and activist Victor Villaseñor, Chicano artist Ignacio Gomez, and NFL star Rashan Gary, and others. Learn more about Siena’s commitments and ongoing initiatives for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

The Siena School, a national leader in dyslexia education, serves bright, college-bound students with language-based learning differences on campuses in Silver Spring, MD (grades 3-12) and Oakton, VA (grades 3-11). 

Spotlight on WNBA Dyslexia Advocacy: A’ja Wilson and Jewell Loyd

February 24, 2023
By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator

Women’s History Month 2023

To commemorate Women’s History Month 2023, Siena is honoring WNBA stars Jewell Loyd and A’ja Wilson for their work and advocacy related to dyslexia.

The National Women’s History Alliance chose the theme of Women’s History Month 2023 as Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories, highlighting those “who have been active in all forms of media and storytelling including print, radio, TV, stage, screen, blogs, podcasts, news, and social media.” In telling their stories of dyslexia and advocacy off the court, Loyd and Wilson have worked for causes related to education, learning differences, girls’ and women’s basketball, and more.  

WNBA Dyslexia Advocacy

Loyd’s and Wilson’s career paths have been quite parallel: both have played in NCAA Women’s Championship games, both were #1 overall WNBA draft picks, and both were Rookies of the Year (Loyd in 2015, Wilson in 2018). Between them, they have 3 WNBA championships (Loyd in 2018 and 2020, Wilson in 2022). They’ve also been teammates several times, winning gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in 2018 and 2022.

A guard for the Seattle Storm since she was drafted first overall in 2015, Jewell Loyd has done a lot of strong advocacy and community work stemming from her learning differences. In 2015 right before the WNBA draft, Loyd wrote about her dyslexia journey for The Players' Tribune

After being diagnosed [as an adolescent], it took time to figure out what worked for me, but I did. And if I close my eyes right now, I can see the back of my future jersey: Loyd. I won’t know what the front will say for another few hours, but the title I want to carry above all others? Role model.

Basketball was, for Loyd, a “sanctuary” while she was in school, and she applied the same determination and focus she needed on the court to her studies and adjustment to her learning needs.

Loyd’s dyslexia advocacy and role modeling were writ large—literally—in 2016. She was featured in an interactive, three-panel billboard in New York as an Honorary Diplomat for Eye to Eye, a nonprofit mentoring program in which elementary and middle school students with learning differences work with high school or college students with learning differences. 

See the video of the billboard here.

During Women’s History Month 2022, Loyd partnered with 94 Feet of Game and We The Best Foundation for the Future of Basketball Is Female campaign, helping provide 1,000 scholarships for female basketball players, along with access to foundational basketball skills.

A fellow WNBA role model and dyslexia advocate, A’ja Wilson has been a forward for the Las Vegas Aces since being drafted in 2018. She wrote about her dyslexia journey for The Players’ Tribune in 2018, sharing that she actively sought accommodations when starting at the University of South Carolina:

Before school started I sat down with my parents and an academic advisor from South Carolina, and we decided that every professor should know about my dyslexia.
     I never had to just go up to Coach [Dawn Staley] and tell her. But she knew, even before the recruiting process had ended. Freshman year, it was kept pretty quiet. I was doing all right in college thanks to having better resources—and honestly being able to record lectures instead of having to write everything down. That helped a lot.

Wilson later cofounded the A’ja Wilson Foundation with her parents. Through her foundation and public presence as a WNBA star, Wilson supports children with dyslexia and their families to, according to their mission statement, “empower them to reach their full potential through educational programming, workshops, camps and grant opportunities.”

Moreover, the A’ja Wilson Foundation does a lot of work to prevent bullying of students who learn differently through education and mentoring programs. Learn more about the A’Ja Wilson Foundation’s recent work on their Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook channels, especially under the hashtags #SpeakUp, #ChooseKindness, #DyslexiaAwareness, and #PowerToEmpower.

In using their public visibility as professional athletes and role models, Loyd and Wilson continue to advocate for dyslexia awareness and support to help students across the country.

Additional Links and Resources

Learn more about them here:

  • “Jewell Loyd Talks about the WNBA Draft, Being Dyslexic and Finding Comfort in Basketball” (SB Nation, 2015)
  • “Niles West Product and WNBA Champion Jewell Loyd Never Let Dyslexia Define Her” (Chicago Sun-Times, 2019)
  • “The Incomparable Journey of Jewell Loyd” (Sports Illustrated, 2020)
  • “How Jewell Loyd is Giving Back to Chicago and Inspiring the Next Generation of Female Hoopers” (Slam, 2022)
  • “How Team USA's A'ja Wilson is Using Her Own Life Experiences to Support Others in Similar Situations” (IOC, 2021)
  • “South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson Opens Up About Her Struggle with Dyslexia” (Slam, 2018)

See The Siena School blog for other heritage month spotlights related to our innovative dyslexia education, including NFL linebacker Rashan Gary, writer and activist Victor Villaseñor, poet Amanda Gorman, figure skater Meryl Davis, film director Ann Hu, and astrophysicist Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock. See also this 2021 blog post on dyslexia awareness and advocacy at Siena.

Siena’s mission-focused innovative dyslexia education is designed for students in grades 3-12 with language-based learning differences on campuses in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Oakton, Virginia.

Spotlight on Meryl Davis

March 03, 2022
By Joseph Fruscione, Communications & Advancement Associate

“I learned how I learned and how my brain worked. It helped me adjust and compensate for my differences…. It opened me up to problem solving, seeing things differently, and how I can help myself overcome things.” —Olympian Meryl Davis on her dyslexia


Even before she won Olympic gold in 2014, Meryl Davis knew the importance of advocating for herself and others. A competitive skater and ice dancer since age 5, Davis has used both her public presence and her community dedication to help young people achieve their goals. 

As part of Women's History Month this year, Siena is honoring Davis for her successes in inspiring women and girls both on and off the ice, in part through her perseverance in adjusting to her own learning differences. 

Davis’s dyslexia diagnosis came in 3rd grade. At first, she felt less-than and inadequate, and she eventually figured out how to learn in her own way, finishing high school as a member of the National Honor Society. She attended the University of Michigan, majoring in Cultural Anthropology (Class of 2020) while also training full-time on the ice rink. 

Davis also lacks depth perception and has trouble seeing out of her right eye, which was another adjustment she made successfully. As she did in the classroom, Davis developed accommodations for her vision issues on the ice, such as by memorizing markings on the ice to situate herself when skating and trusting her partner to stay safe and avoid collisions with other skaters.

Photo by Andrej Sakovic, Getty Images

A profile from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity quotes Davis on her professional path: “With skating I could feel it more than see it.” Moreover, “I fell in love with it because it made sense to me, partly because I see things differently. I learned to enjoy it, worry free, in terms of moving with the music. It’s been a really beautiful part of my life.”

At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Davis and her partner Charlie White became the first American team to win the gold medal in ice dancing. Davis and White had won medals in other competitions since 2006, and their Olympic victory capped their great run as skating partners. In 2020, they were named to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. Learn more here about Davis’s accomplishments on the ice. 

Since winning Olympic gold, Davis has been dedicated to supporting young people and advocating for access to figure skating, education, and social–emotional wellness—particularly in underserved communities. Among her post-Olympics accomplishments are: 

  • In 2015, she wrote for Team USA about the importance of sports and community advocacy. “[S]port is about the kind of success that brings you one step closer to being the best version of yourself,” she wrote in helping define “success” more broadly than international competitions, medals, or other accolades.
  • She’s worked with Classroom Champions, an organization that partners with elite athletes to help children’s academic and social–emotional wellness.
  • A Michigan native, Davis is a founding co-chair of the organization Figure Skating in Detroit as well as an ambassador for the Women's Sport Foundation. Figure Skating in Detroit combines figure skating, tutoring, STEM coursework, and leadership training to give Detroit-area girls access to a supportive, mentoring community. “Figure skating is an expensive sport,” notes Davis, who’s part of the program’s leadership committee and a member of its champions committee. “It hasn't been a particularly diverse sport historically, so we focus on giving access to girls of color in the city of Detroit.” (Learn more here about Figure Skating in Detroit.) 
  • In April 2021, Davis added children’s book author to her professional accomplishments, publishing the picture book Moon Walk: Forever by Your Side, about a parent and a child bonding. 

“Patience with oneself is the key to learning how to be your best self in any case. Just because things come differently to you doesn’t make you any less. You have to rely on the people who are there for you.” —Olympian Meryl Davis on using available supports

See Siena’s blog for related material on successful women, including a spotlight on astrophysicist Maggie Aderin-Pocock from Women’s History Month 2021 and one on poet and activist Amanda Gorman from Black History Month 2022. 

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